A British Columbia man says he’s leaving Omar Khadr some money in his will, even though he thinks the Canadian war criminal wouldn’t approve of his lifestyle as a gay atheist.
Jack Hallam of Saltspring Island said the 26-year-old Mr. Khadr could put the money towards his education now that he’s been repatriated to Canada after spending a decade at a U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay.
Mr. Hallam said he has set aside $700 for Mr. Khadr because he thinks the Toronto-born man has been treated badly by both the American and Canadian governments.
“I think the young man has been treated abominably,” Mr. Hallam told The Canadian Press on Saturday. “His story just moved me. He was tortured, he was kept in solitary confinement, he had light deprivation.”
The 84-year-old retired zoologist said he’d been in contact with Mr. Khadr’s Alberta-based tutor, who had travelled to Guantanamo Bay.
Mr. Hallam added that he may increase the amount of money he leaves the former child soldier so he can use it to adjust to life back in Canada.
In October, 2010, Mr. Khadr pleaded guilty before a military commission to five war crimes, including murder in violation of the rules of war. In return, he was given a further eight years behind bars but was allowed to return to Canada to serve out the rest of his sentence.
He applied to transfer to Canada in April of last year and was returned to the country of his birth on Sept. 29.
The repatriation angered a former American solder who was partly blinded in the 2002 firefight in Afghanistan during which Mr. Khadr, then 15, was captured.
The transfer also prompted hundreds of Canadians to donate money to the family of the U.S. soldier who was killed by a grenade thrown by Mr. Khadr during the same battle. By last week, about 400 people had donated about $30,000.
John Norris, one of Mr. Khadr’s Canadian lawyers, said American military lawyers began educating Mr. Khadr at Guantanamo in November, 2008.
“His American military defence lawyers deserve tremendous credit. And one of them, who I think had visited Canada once or twice, had to learn Canadian geography so he could sit down with Omar and teach him Canadian geography.”
Mr. Norris said the aim was to provide Mr. Khadr with an education equivalent to high school and added that his client is currently about halfway through a program based on themes such as Canadian geography and history.
Mr. Norris said Mr. Khadr had also been studying at Guatanamo with the long-distance help of an Edmonton tutor, who once visited the detainee at the prison in Cuba.
Mr. Khadr is committed to getting an education, Mr. Norris said.
“He has said in the past that he’s very interested in some kind of a medical career, a paramedic or something of that nature, and he remains committed to that idea. But I think as he continues to learn and is exposed to different things he may get other ideas.”
Mr. Khadr is currently being held at Millhaven Institution, west of Kingston, where he will be assessed before authorities decide where he will serve the remaining six years of his eight-year sentence for war crimes.
Mr. Norris said he hopes Mr. Khadr will be able to continue his education in Canada so he can have a chance at a normal life.
“There was an abysmal failure on Canada’s part to come to his aid and to defend him as a child, which obviously he was and which Canada, on many different fronts, was obliged to do,” he said.
“Instead of doing that, they really threw up their hands and said, `We’re going to let the American process run its course.
“On the American side, they threw him into a place where no one belongs, an utterly illegal and illegitimate detention facility. But Omar particularly did not belong there because of the clear international consensus that children should not be prosecuted with anything in connection with a war or a war crime.”